When your mobile rings and the Truecaller app displays a red flag, it's almost instinctive for many of us, especially doctors, to quickly decline or even block the call. The annoyance stemming from telemarketing calls has led us to develop a certain perception of phone calls. However, in the realm of healthcare, making phone calls to patients who scheduled their appointments one or two months in advance serves a crucial purpose.
These appointments may include follow-up check-ups, second-stage interventions, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy. While some consultants might consider these phone calls unnecessary, there are compelling reasons behind them:
1. Increasing Competition:
The healthcare industry is becoming increasingly competitive. Patients have more options than ever, and by reaching out through phone calls, healthcare facilities can stand out and retain their patient base.
2. Resource Allocation:
Healthcare facilities must efficiently allocate resources, particularly for planned procedures. Patients may change their decisions, opt for another center, or reschedule their appointments. Effective phone communication plays a crucial role in managing resources efficiently. Additionally, consultants may also change appointments, and it is essential to promptly inform the patients of these changes.
3. Measuring Patient Outcomes:
Appointment confirmation calls provide an opportunity to gauge patient outcomes. By understanding their needs and concerns, healthcare facilities can tailor their services to improve patient experiences and outcomes.
Now that we've established the purpose, let's explore the right way to make these phone calls.
Steps for Making Appointment Confirmation Calls:
1. In-House Responsibility:
Avoid outsourcing appointment confirmation calls to external call centers. Instead, entrust your healthcare facility's staff with this task. This fosters trust between patients and the facility, as patients can connect a voice to a face when they visit the facility.
Use real names, not nicknames, when introducing callers. Ensure that the phone number used for calling has a direct line, avoiding the need to navigate through IVR menus. However, IVR can still be utilized for general inquiries.
3. Department or Consultant-Based Calls:
In larger healthcare facilities, consider giving each department or consultant their own calling facility. This personalized approach makes patients feel connected and cared for.
4. Show Compassion:
When making calls, be sensitive to the patient's or their relative's emotions. Inquire about the patient's well-being and express genuine concern for their pain and suffering. This compassionate approach contributes to improving the patient's health condition.
5. Focus on Follow-Up:
The primary objective of these calls is to confirm the patient's appointment. Avoid upselling or unnecessary discussions. Instead, inquire about the patient's willingness to attend their appointment or if they want to reschedule the appointment.
6. Appointment Confirmation Giving Slot:
Discuss the ideal timing for appointments. When appointments are scheduled a month in advance, slots may not be allotted, so giving a specific time for the visit can reduce patient waiting time. Utilize Healthcare Information Management Systems (HIMS) with appointment modules that have this feature, such as Nice HMS.
7. The Role of Patient Feedback:
These phone calls can be a valuable source of feedback for improving healthcare facilities.
8. Ask Patients to Bring All Reports:
Use this phone call as a medium to ensure patients bring all their related records when they come to the healthcare facility, as this can often become a problem when treating patients.
9. Managing Cancellations and Rescheduling:
Provide guidance on how to handle patient requests for cancellations or rescheduling during confirmation calls while maintaining scheduling efficiency.
10. Handling Language Barriers:
Speak to patients in their vernacular language. This is important because it helps them feel connected and understood.
11. The Significance of Non-Intrusive Communication:
It is vital to respect patient privacy and minimize unnecessary calls. Utilize phones with a reliable network connection to prevent the need for repeated contact due to poor connectivity.
12. Integrating Confirmation Calls with Electronic Health Records (EHR):
This integration is essential for tracking outcomes and monitoring staff performance.
13. Patient Education During Calls:
Offer guidance on medication, diet, and other important aspects of healthcare. Patients often have questions that can be addressed during these calls.
14. Handling Emergency Situations:
If the staff finds the patient is acutely sick during the phone call, arrange for an ambulance and make arrangements to shift the patient to the hospital.
15. Overcoming Patient Resistance:
Do not push unwilling patients, as it goes against medical ethics.
16. Legal and Ethical Considerations:
Be mindful of patient privacy and ethical guidelines when making these calls.
healthcare appointment confirmation calls, when conducted with empathy and professionalism, can enhance patient engagement and contribute to improved patient outcomes. They are not just routine calls but a means to provide personalized care, ensuring that patients receive the attention and support they need. By following these steps and focusing on the patient's perspective, healthcare facilities can make a positive impact on patient experiences and overall healthcare quality.